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Don’t trust memories; they change

On Behalf of | Sep 19, 2019 | Uncategorized |

You feel like you can trust your memories. They seem solid. They seem accurate. If you recount a past event to someone else, you trust what you’re telling them.

But should you? Probably not as much as you think. After all, scientists have found that memories usually change over time, essentially getting rewritten and created by the brain based off of a lot of different information. Your memory can be wrong and still feel convincingly right.

9/11: An example case

As an example, consider the case of a man who is a memory expert and who has studied the subject. Even he found that some of his memories were false.

He talked, for instance, about where he was on 9/11. Tragic events often stick in people’s minds, so it was a good test case. He remembered watching the event in person and on TV.

One thing that he “remembered” was seeing the video footage of the very first plane crash. He said that he didn’t see it in person, but he watched the footage on the news that day.

While the news channels were naturally covered with footage of the incident, that memory was false. They did not have any footage of the first crash on that first day. No one had been intentionally filming for it, of course, though some footage was accidentally captured and released later.

The catch: It did not run until September 12. The man “remembered” seeing it on September 11. Even he was shocked to discover that he was wrong.

This is also a good test case because it is easy to prove or disprove the memory. There is video evidence of what happened and when it happened. No matter what the man thought was true, it was easy enough to look at the facts and compare them to his memories.

This is not always the case. That becomes very important in some instances, such as a criminal case. If a witness remembers what happened, is that memory real and accurate? Has the memory changed over time, perhaps because of things that they saw or read the next day? Did they talk to other people and alter the memory that way?

Your legal options

We know that memories can change, but they still feel convincing, sometimes even after evidence contradicts them. It makes it hard to sort out. If you have gotten accused of a crime and someone testifies against you, it is important to know about all of your legal options in Florida. The person could be lying, but they may also think they are telling the truth — when they are relying on a faulty memory without realizing it.